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WhatsApp: Delete user data until September 25 when you change privacy policy, says Delhi HC

Information shared via WhatsApp messenger after September 25 will be allowed to be shared as per the new policy.

Written by Aneesha Mathur | New Delhi |
Updated: September 25, 2016 8:50:51 am
whatsapp, whatsapp privacy, whatsapp privacy setting, whatsapp india, delhi hc whatsapp, delhi hc whatsapp privacy, whatsapp facebook, whatsapp news, india news, tech news WhatsApp had in August announced changes in its privacy policy following its acquisition by Facebook.

In a significant ruling related to privacy on social media, the Delhi High Court today directed Internet messaging service WhatsApp to delete all data and information of all users from its servers up until September 25 when its new privacy policy comes into effect.

A bench of Chief Justice G Rohini and Justice Sangita Dhingra Sehgal observed that it was “always open to the existing users of WhatsApp who do not want their information to be shared with Facebook to opt for deletion of their accounts,” and has directed WhatsApp to delete all data/information/details on their servers of all users until September 25, for both the users who choose to delete the application as well as those who retain the application on their mobile phones.

Information shared via WhatsApp messenger after September 25 will be allowed to be shared as per the new policy.
The directions were issued while disposing of the PIL to block sharing of information between WhatsApp and Facebook. Imperial College, London student Karmanya Singh Sareen and Amity Law College student Shreya Sethi had moved the high court in the PIL,contending that WhatsApp’s policy “severely compromises the rights of its users and makes the privacy rights of users completely vulnerable.”

WhatsApp had in August announced changes in its privacy policy following its acquisition by Facebook. The new policy has said that account information of users would be shared with Facebook after September 25.

“If users opt for deleting the WhatsApp account before 25/09/2016 the information/data/details of such users should be deleted completely from WhatsApp servers and the same shall not be shared with Facebook or any group companies,” directed the bench, adding that “as far as users who opt to remain in WhatsApp are concerned, the existing information/data/details of such users upto 25/09/2016 shall not be shared with Facebook or any one of its group companies.”

The new policy gives users the option to “opt out” of sharing information with Facebook “for marketing purposes” but says that “undelivered messages” will be retained for 30 days and “media messages” where a large number of people may be sharing a “popular picture or video” could be retained for a longer period.

Observing that there is currently no regulatory framework for Internet based Messaging services such as WhatsApp, the Delhi High court directed the Central government and Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) to “consider the issues regarding functioning if internet messaging applications like WhatsApp and take a decision at the earliest as to whether it is feasible to bring the same under statutory regulatory framework.”

The court, however, declined to pass orders to block the change in privacy policy on the grounds that the issue cannot be taken up by the High court as the messaging service was not violating any rules or laws.

The 15-page judgment has taken note of the privacy policy submitted by WhatsApp. “Users cannot contend that the company shall be compelled to continue with the same terms of service,” observed the bench.

The court said that while the issue relating to existence of the Right to Privacy as an actionable right was still pending before the Supreme Court, the privacy policy submitted by WhatsApp has made it clear that all information relating to a user would be deleted if the user chooses to delete their whatsApp Account at any time.

The Central government, through standing counsel Kirtiman Singh, told the court that Internet messaging applications had “not yet been brought within the purview of statutory regulatory framework” and the process of creating such a framework had started in March 2015.

Senior advocate Pratibha M Singh, who represented the two petitioners in the PIL, said that the “path breaking order” upholds privacy.

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